January 23, 2009 at 4:22 pm

Automakers spend less on lobbying

Total expenses by six largest firms and their trade associations was $46.2M, down from $53M in '07.

WASHINGTON -- Major automakers spent $46.2 million lobbying in 2008 -- a year when the U.S. Treasury Department agreed to loan the domestic auto industry $23.4 billion.

But overall spending by the six largest automakers and their trade associations fell 13 percent, from $53 million in 2007.

General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC each reported lower spending on lobbying, according to disclosure reports filed with the U.S. Senate.

GM spent $13.1 million in 2008, down from $14.3 million in 2007. Last month, President Bush agreed to loan GM $13.4 billion. GM said Thursday it wouldn't spend any of that money on lobbying.

"Lobbying is the transparent and effective way that GM has its voice heard on critical policy issues," spokesman Greg Martin said. "Lobbying is legally protected speech that companies should not be required to forfeit if they receive federal funding. However, no funds received through the U.S. Treasury loan will be applied to lobbying activities."

Chrysler spent $5.8 million in 2008, down from $7 million a year earlier. Chrysler was an arm of DaimlerChrysler AG through August 2007.

Chrysler received a $4 billion government loan and is seeking an additional $3 billion in government aid.

"There is significant demand from legislators and government officials for education and information on Chrysler, its operations, products, and future plans," Chrysler spokeswoman Mary Beth Halprin said about its lobbying activities. "The expenses reported include a number of activities at the local, state and federal levels of government and on a wide range of issues."

GMAC LLC and Ford Motor Co. saw spending on lobbying increase. Ford saw its spending jump to $7.7 million in 2008, up from $7.1 million in 2007. GMAC spent $4.6 million in 2008, up from $1.5 million in 2007.

GMAC received a $5 billion cash infusion last month, while the Treasury Department agreed to loan GM $1 billion to invest in GMAC.

"GMAC addressed a number of significant issues in 2008 that were critical to the business," spokeswoman Gina Proia said. "The costs incurred included work performed by external consultants, time spent by our executives, and dues to annual trade associations."

Ford said it faces a number of federal issues. The Dearborn automaker has not sought federal loans.

"We certainly addressed several government actions last year: health care, energy, taxes and other issues that affected the company's shareholders, employees, suppliers and dealers," said Ford spokesman Mike Moran.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the trade association representing Detroit's Big Three, Toyota Motor Corp. and six other automakers, spent $7.3 million in 2008, down from $12.8 million in 2007.

Chrysler's parent company, Ceberus Capital Management LP, which bought a majority stake in GMAC in 2006 from GM, spent $2.1 million in 2008, down from $3 million in 2007. But $1 million of that 2008 spending was in the last-quarter, with a large chunk directed at winning approval of GMAC's bank holding company status.

GM now owns 60 percent of GMAC while Cerberus owns 40 percent. Proia said that's temporary and hasn't resulted in any fundamental changes in the board's makeup or other areas.

Honda Motor Corp.'s lobbying expenses increased to $2.3 million in 2008, up from $1.8 million. Toyota's lobbying expenses fell from $5.9 million in 2007 to $5.2 million. Nissan Motor Co.'s lobbying bills fell to $3.7 million in 2008, down from $3.9 million last year.

The Association of International Automobile Manufacturers, the trade group representing most foreign automakers, spent $1.1 million in 2008, up from $1 million in 2007.